2nd dolphin park gets OK

WB facilities get Planning permission

Planning permission has been granted for the construction of two separate dolphin entertainment facilities in West Bay.

However, the parks need to fulfil other requirements in order to be permitted to open for business.

Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. is a franchise with headquarters in Mexico and is to be located at the site of the old Turtle Farm in West Bay, as part of Boatswain’s Beach, but privately run.

Dolphin Cove Cayman is associated with Dolphin Cove Jamaica and is to be located south of Calypso Grill in Batabano, West Bay, by the North Sound.

Immediate past-Chairman of the Central Planning Authority Altee Thompson verified approval had been granted for the excavation and building of this facility in Batabano. He stressed that the CPA has nothing to do with the licensing of such a facility, and only gives approval to build.

Present Chairman of the CPA, Dalkeith Bothwell confirmed that planning approval for building has been granted for the Dolphin Discovery facility. However, he noted that although the project has planning permission to build, all other stipulations regarding the establishment of such a facility need to be met, such as criteria set down by the Department of Agriculture.

The eight dolphins for this facility are to come from Dolphin Discovery, Cancun, Mexico. However, just this year the Mexican Government has put into effect their amended Wildlife Law, saying that effective immediately the ‘Importation, exportation, and re-exportation of specimens of any marine mammal or primate species are prohibited’.

It is unclear whether this will hinder Dolphin Discovery (Cayman) Ltd. from importing eight bottlenose dolphins from Mexico. Efforts to reach one of the developers, Dale Crighton, were not successful, while Gene Thompson was off island this week.

It is understood that the dolphins for Dolphin Cove Cayman will come from Cuba. When contacted this week by the Caymanian Compass, Kent Eldemire of Tropical Real Estate Ltd., who is connected with this dolphin facility, said he had no comment.

In January 2002, the Mexican Wildlife Law amendment prohibited the capture of dolphins in Mexican waters. Up until now Mexico has served as the major holding and trans-shipment country for dolphins from Cuba, Solomon Islands and Japan, said a press release from local campaign group Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands.

Department of Agriculture Chief Veterinary Officer Dr. Alfred Benjamin confirmed that animal import licences for dolphins have been granted to both entities. These are subject to certain health requirements at the time of importation and other requirements being in place prior to the importation of the animals. These form part of the Department of Agriculture’s conditions and include welfare concerns such as housing, husbandry and storm contingency plans.

A discharge permit must also be issued by the Water Authority, and the process is being worked on for Dolphin Discovery (Cayman). It is not yet confirmed that a discharge permit has been granted to Dolphin Cove Cayman.

The Water Authority is charged with protecting the ground water and water that flows from land into the sea.

The Department of Environment is working with the agencies and authorities involved in the dolphin park approval process to ensure that impacts on the natural environment are considered appropriately, said DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie.

It is understood that another franchise out of Honduras, Living Sea, is also seeking to set up an operation, also in West Bay.

Keep Dolphins Free in the Cayman Islands has commended the Mexican organisations who have worked with their Government to implement the change in law.

‘Mexico now joins other countries that in recent years are stopping the spread of the captive dolphin tourist entertainment park industry. Some of the countries prohibiting the trade in captive dolphins are the Solomon Islands, Panama, Australia, Netherlands Antilles, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Haiti.

‘Cuba is now the only Caribbean country capturing and exporting dolphins for the captive dolphin tourist entertainment park industry,’ said a KDFCI release.

Spokesperson for KDFCI Billy Adam said neither the previous nor current Government have responded to a letter written to the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee on 23 March, 2004 requesting information and querying the requirements of the Animals Law (2003 Revision).

‘Since then other requests for information from this and the previous Government on the status of the establishment of the captive dolphin tourist entertainment parks and Government’s compliance with international environmental obligations remain unanswered,’ he said.

Speaking as Chairman of the Animal Welfare Advisory Committee Dr. Benjamin said he has supplied the Ministry for District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing with the information to respond to Mr. Adam’s queries.

The release goes on to point out environmental factors relating to these types of attractions. ‘Around the world, marine environmental damage to reefs and other marine life is also caused by the nutrient and bacteria in sewage outflows from captive dolphin tourist entertainment parks.

‘In the Cayman Islands, the raw farm sewage outflow, however, would first pass through the Government-owned Cayman Turtle Farm, before further polluting our already damaged marine environment. Therefore, Government will have contributory liabilities.’

The KDFCI group points out that the CITA’s watersports division has for many years clearly stated that after studying the captive dolphin entertainment industry they do not support Government allowing them here. The Cayman Humane Society has also expressed to Government that they are against it.

The Marine Conservation Board has also spoken out against the setting up a swim-with-dolphins facility, saying that the Cayman Islands’ unique tourism product can be undermined by such an addition and counter to the Cayman Islands reputation as en environmentally responsible, proactive, marine-based tourism destination.

The Board has also acknowledged the dolphins are more predisposed to the adversities of captivity than are most other animals.

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